In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, Jesus teaches us to tell our stories to others.
MATTHEW 13: 11-14 MSG – TELLING OUR STORIES
‘The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.”
Matthew 13 is a blizzard of parables. Matthew seems to create a “day in the life of” snapshot of how Jesus spends his time. The story starts with Jesus leaving a house (in which he may have been teaching) and going to the seaside, perhaps for some time of prayer and reflection. Before long a crowd has gathered, forcing him to flee to a boat anchored off shore.
There he begins his classic method of teaching/preaching; he tells stories – all day long. After the first story, the disciples are curious. They ask Jesus,”Why do you tell [so many] stories?” Jesus’ answer is instructive, as it always has been, to the Christ-followers and the Christian Church in 2017. He says: You all are more fortunate than most people. You grew up in the church.You heard and perhaps absorbed the Biblical stories and their meanings. However, not everyone has been exposed to these teachings. Many people would love to have been taught what you know. But they are walking around in darkness. And they will not listen if you don’t engage them by story-telling.
I’m sure Jesus would say the same thing to us today. People who are walking in darkness can be attracted to a life with Jesus by our stories. “Reaching out” is sometimes as simple as just telling someone a story about your relationship with the Master. It doesn’t take a background in theology or a degree in Biblical history. It takes our realization that what we have gone through might be exactly what someone else needs to hear. As Daniel.T. Niles has famously said, “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
♥ Obviously ordinary people don’t have parables at the tip of their tongues. However, it is possible to mine your life for stories of important milestones in your spiritual journey or of ordinary experiences through which your faith and trust in Jesus have grown. Reflect on your life for little stories and anecdotes that are meaningful, memorable, and pertinent to your spiritual formation. They may have a big BIG effect on someone, if you would share them.
♥ Look for opportunities to share those stories. You don’t need to have a boat anchored off shore with a captive audience. You just need to walk daily with the Holy Spirit and watch for openings as you post on Facebook or have conversations with others -friends, children (even adult children) and grandchildren, people in your small groups – book clubs, social groups, church groups, Bible studies, etc. Remember that your story may linger in someone’s mind until it becomes a spark for transformation.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“When we have a significant experience—one that shapes us—we turn it into a story. For example, a powerful experience from childhood may have been a special birthday party where you got the gift you had been hoping for. You do not remember the event in exact detail. You remember it as a narrative—who was there, what was said, how you felt, what the cake looked like.
Narrative is “the central function . . . of the human mind.” We turn everything into a story in order to make sense of life. We “dream in narrative, day-dream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, criticize, construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative.” In fact, we cannot avoid it. We are storied creatures. Our stories help us navigate our world, to understand right and wrong, and to provide meaning” (James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful God).